The newly appointed Australian ambassador to Qatar, Pablo Kang, met with members of the Australian community for the first time yesterday, stating his intention to facilitate the development of two-way trade links between the countries during his stay in the region.
Kang has been appointed to the role following postings in the South Pacific, Philippines and London, and he is hoping to contribute towards an increase in trade and other bilateral relations during his tenure, which is likely to last three years.
Qatar does not currently have an Australian embassy, and so the ambassador to the UAE is accredited here as well. Kang travelled to Doha this week after presenting his credentials to Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan in Abu Dhabi yesterday.
Prior to a welcome reception from the Australian and New Zealand Business Group in Qatar (ANSBIQ), Kang spoke to Gulf Times about his arrival in the region and his plans to develop trade between Qatar and Australia, which stood at just under A$800mn last year.
He explained that A$500mn of this trade was Qatari exports to Australia, including fertilisers and liquefied gases, while Australian exports consisted mostly of meat, livestock and passenger vehicles.
Kang said that the Australian Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Joe Ludwig, would visit Qatar tomorrow to discuss a new regulatory framework introduced by the government to ensure that standards are upheld throughout the process of trading animals around the world.
Qatar is the fourth largest market for Australian exports of live sheep, with 316,000 sheep coming here last year, and following a number of issues worldwide, Australia has imposed regulations to protect the health of the animals and ensure traceability and accountability.
Agriculture forms the basis of many links between Qatar and Australia, and Kang spoke about the Hassad Foods Australia investments in his home country, aimed at securing Qatar’s long-term food security by purchasing land and livestock.
Another area which could see future tie-ups between the countries is sports and management of major sporting events. With Qatar having secured the rights to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022 (at the expense of Australia), Kang explained that Australian organisations were keen to impart some of their knowledge and expertise in organising major competitions, having hosted the Commonwealth Games, Rugby World Cup and of course, the Sydney Olympics in recent years.
He said that Australian officials have invited Qatari authorities to attend an event to take place on the sidelines of the London Olympics this year, focusing on the logistics and organisation associated with hosting major sporting events.
“We think the World Cup will present many opportunities for Australian companies, and we are looking forward to being involved as much as possible,” he said.
Kang is also looking at developing links in education, and hope to see a general increase in the level of business moving both ways between the countries. He said that Australia was hopeful of welcoming HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani to their shores at some point in the next year, which they believe would provide another significant boost to the burgeoning relationship between Australia and Qatar.
Although trade levels are comparatively low, the relationship between the countries has been growing steadily in recent years, and Qatar will be opening an embassy in Canberra at some point this year, said Kang.
However, there are no plans to open an embassy in Doha in the near future, with budget requirements restricting Australia’s development overseas, meaning that the community here will continue to be served out of the UAE.
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